How Groups Differ from Individuals in Learning from Experience: Evidence from a Contest Platform

50 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2023

See all articles by Tianyu He

Tianyu He

National University of Singapore (NUS) - NUS Business School

Marco S Minervini

IE Business School

Phanish Puranam

INSEAD

Date Written: December 13, 2023

Abstract

We examine how groups differ from individuals in how they tackle two fundamental trade-offs in learning from experience – namely, between exploration and exploitation, and between over- and under-generalization from noisy data (which is also known as the “bias-variance” trade-off in the machine learning literature). Using data from an online contest platform (Kaggle) featuring groups and individuals competing on the same learning task, we found that groups, as expected, not only generate a larger aggregate of alternatives but also explore a more diverse range of these alternatives compared to individuals, even when accounting for the greater number of alternatives. However, we also discovered that this abundance of alternatives may make groups struggle more than individuals at generalizing the feedback they receive into a valid understanding of their task environment. Building on these findings, we theorize about the conditions under which groups may achieve better learning outcomes than individuals. Specifically, we propose a self-limiting nature to the group advantage in learning from experience: the group advantage in generating alternatives may result in potential disadvantages in the evaluation and selection of these alternatives.

Keywords: Learning-by-doing Cycle, Aggregation, Organizational Learning

Suggested Citation

He, Tianyu and Minervini, Marco S and Puranam, Phanish, How Groups Differ from Individuals in Learning from Experience: Evidence from a Contest Platform (December 13, 2023). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2023/70/STR, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4663547 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4663547

Tianyu He

National University of Singapore (NUS) - NUS Business School ( email )

1 Business Link
Singapore, 117592
Singapore

Marco S Minervini

IE Business School

Calle Maria de Molina 31
Madrid, Madrid 28006
Spain

Phanish Puranam (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

1 Ayer Rajah Avenue
Singapore, 138676
Singapore

HOME PAGE: http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/profiles/ppuranam/

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